A little over two years ago I wrote the following article about the political situation in our nation. I had no expectation that my words would make any difference for our nation, but there was some catharsis that was a benefit to me. But, I got stirred up once again when the pastor of a large church in a neighboring city showed up on national television excoriating the President for not being the kind of Christian he thinks he should be.
Don’t misunderstand. I think it is appropriate to disagree with policies and platforms and vigorously and aggressively make your case. I also think it is fitting to speak out against immorality and sinful behavior of politicians (although it should probably be done with the same tenderness and love that you would express to someone listening to one of your sermons).
But, when a Christian leader shows up on television to provide a smug, smarmy, sarcastic diatribe, claiming to speak for “evangelical Christians” because the President failed to issue an official proclamation about Easter, I can’t help but be embarrassed. Can we at least give some thought and do a little research before we show up on television? With that said, the following is my article from two years ago.
I am not easily embarrassed. I grew up with a lot of physical malfunctions so my body has been poked, prodded, and handled by doctors, nurses, and airport security personnel all of my life. I spent several years working at a police department so I have heard and seen people at their worst. I am not overly absorbed with what other people think and say about me. As I said, I am not easily embarrassed.
It is only possible to be embarrassed when you care about losing something. It is the things that are most important to us that cause humiliation. I am embarrassed when my children do something stupid, but when your children act up I am just angry. I might be embarrassed by getting a traffic ticket, but I might chuckle as a drive past you talking to a traffic officer on the shoulder of the highway.
Yet, I am now confessing that I am embarrassed. To be more specific, I am embarrassed to be known as a Christian. Let me clarify before I move on. I am not embarrassed by anything that Jesus has done or that He has asked me to do. Obviously, I am disappointed and saddened that I have not been quick to obey many times. But the source of my embarrassment is the way many of my Christian brothers and sisters have conducted themselves the past few months in the political arena.
We have just finished the tenth Presidential election that has been held since I was old enough to vote. I have a few vague memories of the two elections prior to these ten. Each year the vitriol gets worse, but this year the rage was more shocking than ever and Christians were leading the charge. My email inbox was filled with charges of liar, fraud, terrorist, and anti-Christ. Christian blogs prophesied that an incorrect vote would turn our nation in Sodom and Gomorrah.
I understand hyperbole and the use of metaphor in political debate. This was much more. Many Christians were motivated by anger and hate. Racism and rage were commonly heard in the voices of some of our Christian leaders. It is embarrassing that as followers of Jesus we have resorted to name-calling, lies, innuendo, and false accusations when it comes to political debate. We can – we must – do better!
Since I am only responsible for my actions and attitudes, I will begin the process of doing better in my own life. I will first seek God’s forgiveness for my own anger and for my silence when I should have stood in defense of those who were being abused.
Secondly, I will accept the truth that God is responsible for the winners of our elections, at least that is the way I read the words of the Apostle Paul – Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (Romans 13:1) These words were originally written to a community that had a much more difficult political climate than you or I have ever experienced. The early readers probably had friends and family members who were used as torches to light Nero’s garden. The margin in this year’s election makes it pretty clear who God wanted to be our President.
Third, I will try harder to pray for those that God has placed in position of authority. In fact, other than being required by Jesus to pay my taxes, this seems to be the only requirement I have as a Christian citizen – I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Praying for those in authority is a beautiful thing. When I pray for someone, it is not easy to criticize him or her. It is impossible to spread lies and accusations about someone on your prayer list. Prayer not only benefits the recipient of the prayer, but it cleanses me of anger and hate toward that person.
In fact, I believe that praying for our leaders is so important that I am going to take a fourth step. Every time I receive an email that is filled with accusations toward one of our leaders, I am going to hit the “Reply to All” button and send these words:
“Thank you for your concern about this elected leader of our country. It is a reminder to me that I need to be in prayer for their wisdom and well-being. I hope you will be my prayer partner in this matter.”
Such a response will probably make some angry, and it will no doubt reduce the number of messages in my inbox (not a bad thing). Hopefully, if enough of us would take such an approach, the next election can be a celebration rather than a battle.